We’re Not Pimps! (We’re just quietly creating programming so you stay tuned and watch the commercials.)

26 Jun


So WGA President Patric Strike Em If You Got Em Verrone went to the FCC and presented a letter abotu product integration.  Product integration is when, in exchange for money, a company gets a product on air and the writers agree to a certain level of inclusion within the storylines.  A hero may drive a certain car and hold forth about that car and Ford may pay for that.

Verrone described product integration as “the embedding of commercial products within the storyline of a program, so as to subliminally advertise to viewers. The hope is that consumers, not expecting to find a commercial within their program, will fail to realize they are actually being advertised to. This practice exploits the emotional connection viewers have with shows and their characters in order to sell a product.”

Verrone also reiterated a point he and other guild members have been making about the creative consequences of product integration.

“When writers are told we must incorporate a commercial product into the storylines we have written, we cease to be creators,” he wrote. “Instead, we run the risk of alienating an audience that expects compelling television, not commercials.”

So it sounds sleazy, right?  I mean, how dare they hurt television by using it to pimp products.  Except that network television has revenue streams based entirely, ENTIRELY, on the fact that programming makes you sit thru commercials.  TV shows are nothing more than a way to make you watch commercials.  The good news is that quality often wins out which is why a great show may last for years and years and bring in money at a level that reflects quality as well as marketability.

So product integration is taking those ads and making them a little less visible.  Still feed dirty and weird?  Spend tomorrow counting how many times you say a brand name.  Go on, count.  We’ll be here waiting.

On average I’d guess you throw out a dozen or so brand names, from Starbucks to the car you’ll be driving or the shoes you’ll be wearing. You don’t stop and apologize for saying them.  Brand names are part of common vernacular.

For my money, product integration is a more honest way to make companies keep paying for more seasons of Breaking Bad and Mad Men.  If companies work directly with the shows the shows get the money, they get the control and the budget of the show itself (and not the network) is helped.  Cutting off product integration cuts off funding for new shows.  A show like Dirty, Sexy, Money may get to stay on the air and get noticed by more people if they let Nokia supply phones for product integration.  But without it, that show will die quickly as it doesn’t prove to the network that it increases the per second value of its ad time.

You with me now?  You see now how that was the president of my union suggesting that funding for programming and new shows which employ writers get cut off?  And how there is really no logical explanation for it?  Yeah, I’m real proud.

Check out more/better vitriol at Artful Writer.

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